Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rapid City facing another pay to play scam: self-reliance or moral hazard?

You have to admit: Hani Shafai has balls.
Like many people in Rapid City, we've been waiting to see if there was any remaining hope for the proposed President's Plaza project to resurface as a way to revitalize a prominent downtown lot. Now we have our answer, and we are happy to hear that Mayor Steve Allender and developers Hani Shafai and Pat Hall are working to bring the project first proposed in 2006 back to the table for a site on the southwest corner of Fifth and St. Joseph streets. Shafai and Hall, of Dream Design, would build the tower within a tax-increment financing district, and the city would use Vision Funds and revenue from the TIF to finance the garage. And many questions remain: What guarantee do we have the developers will complete their end of the bargain? How and when will TIF tax collections generate enough money to cover the costs? Is there any chance the city would be stuck building an expensive parking garage wholly on its own with no help from the developers? How do we know that a major project like this, once started, won't languish or turn into an unfinished downtown eyesore? [editorial, Rapid City Journal]
Of course Shafai was invited to Governor Daugaard's pheasant killing contest. Shafai also appears on the Governors Hunt list and also on the invitation to the 2011 Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.

Recall the slush fund called the Governors Club: Shafai appears with Doyle Estes, who donated polluted swamp land for a soccer complex. Also appearing on that list is Roger Tellinghuisen, now managing cash resources for the complex. He enjoyed a $75,000 legal services contract after being attorney general for the state.

Richard Benda, the now-dead GOP apparatchik, appears on at least one list with Shafai. Yes, thanks to Jason Gant and Pat Powers that file is gone. Shafai, a Future Fund recipient, gave the current South Dakota governor a generous campaign contribution.

South Dakota's previous governor showered $75 million in Future Fund cash on campaign donors without disclosing who they were.

South Dakota has routinely operated in an ethics vacuum often aborting efforts to reduce opacity.

A Muslim, Shafai's google search reveals myriad cushy plums in Pennington County.

How this culture of corruption scandal is not racketeering remains a mystery.

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